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Wikipedia talk:Conflict of interest

Sources on conflict of interestEdit


Interesting proposal by Opabinia regalisEdit

I like the idea of creating essentially a Chinese wall between COI editing and the decision to include material in the encyclopedia. In her answer to a question at the Arbcom elections, candidate Opabinia regalis has made a bold and interesting proposal (permlink) to do this with special user rights and tools.

  • All paid edits must be segregated. No mixing paid and volunteer edits under the same account. All volunteers must disclose their paid account if they have one. All paid editors must do all of their work under one account.
  • "Paid editor" is a user right. It's mutually incompatible with all existing rights other than auto/extendedconfirmed (or better yet, it has a separate "paidconfirmed" flag that prevents new-article creation). If someone is weaseling about disclosure, you say "Oh, gosh! There must be a mistake, you don't have the paid editor right! I'll give it to you right away!"
  • If you have the "paid editor" user right, you're prompted when you save an edit to fill in relevant disclosure details (maybe it'll retain the last set you used, to reduce repeat typing). This is baked-in to the page history (as a tag, maybe?). It's filterable and queryable - you can look up all edits made on behalf of the Doe Corporation, or all edits from paid accounts to the Doe article, etc.
  • There's a paid-pending-changes queue that volunteers can review and accept edits from, so paid edits will be reviewed before hitting mainspace but attribution is preserved.

If this is to happen we will need to get some effort behind it, because both community consensus and WMF development resources will probably be required. ☆ Bri (talk) 21:48, 28 November 2017 (UTC)

IMHO it would make the main problem (UNDISCLOSED paid editing) even worse. North8000 (talk) 22:10, 28 November 2017 (UTC)
  • Yes, I saw this and thought it was a good idea. I think we should clarify what the expectations are for admins/crats/CU/OS/stewards first, but moving forward to a paideditor flag as a tracking category somewhat like the global OTRS flag would be helpful. We could then create edit filters to make specific restrictions. Re: the granting, I don't think that would be preferable to the current method of blocking: Bri as you and I have discussed before, we already know that most paid editors will never be able to edit inside the rules and don't want to. I see this proposed right as helping those who do want to stay inside the rules to follow them, but not as something that we should use to enforce the rules on those who have no intent of following them: we already have blocks for that. The main problem is not disclosure here, the main problem is spamming. If we can help those who disclose not spam, this is a positive. If they don't want to follow the rules and don't disclose, we block. It's that simple. TonyBallioni (talk)
(edit conflict) I've decided on my own and after conversation with some other long-term experienced editors that the "driving (bad behavior) underground" argument pattern is not persuasive in this context. We have nearly 100% non-compliant paid editing at this point. Some quibble over exact numbers but I'll restate it that the number of fully compliant, collegial paid editors is in the single digits. On the other hand, as you can see here and here, the number of non-compliant editors/firms/socks is in the hundreds if not thousands. I really don't see how the situation can get worse through new methods and tools. ☆ Bri (talk) 22:17, 28 November 2017 (UTC)
I suppose that, as a matter of arithmetic, any lousy situation can get even worse, and I can see validity on both sides of that argument. I also think it's an interesting idea that is worth pursuing further, but it appears to me that it will be very complicated to implement, and therefore won't happen for a long time. (I think the WMF Community Wishlist Survey is still going on, and perhaps someone could propose it there.) I agree with the criticism that it's only going to work for cooperative paid editors, but I love the idea of "There must be a mistake, you don't have the paid editor right! I'll give it to you". I think that we have an immediate need for more quickly implementable processes. --Tryptofish (talk) 22:25, 28 November 2017 (UTC)
The easily implementable solution that can be done right now is for more admins to take enforcing our spam policy as seriously as we take blocking teenagers who make penis jokes. Existing policies already give admins the flexibility to deal with the overwhelming majority of paid-editing issues via blocks and deletion. TonyBallioni (talk) 22:31, 28 November 2017 (UTC)
I agree with that. --Tryptofish (talk) 22:34, 28 November 2017 (UTC)
Hear, hear -- There'sNoTime (to explain) 17:32, 29 November 2017 (UTC)
Regarding worsening situations and arithmetic -- sometimes exact parsing of every possible outcome is useful, but I don't think this is one of those. The sun could go nova and this wouldn't be an issue anymore. But fatalism that causes an incapacity to act in any direction is non useful. Better to consider likelihoods that are useful to discuss, then take action. Opabinia's proposal is the first concrete proposal on the table that seems from this perspective to have a chance of helping. ☆ Bri (talk) 02:21, 29 November 2017 (UTC)

1 Is there really a significant problem with DISCLOSED paid editing? IMO not. 2 there really a problem with UNDISCLOSED paid editing? IMO yes, a big one.

Nearly every new proposal and about 1/2 of the current policies basically works on the nearly non-existent problem at the expense of makin the big problem worse.... they discourage the behavior (disclosure) that is much needed to solve the big problem. North8000 (talk) 13:16, 29 November 2017 (UTC)

Disclosure solves nothing. The actual problem is spamming, which disclosed paid editors are more than happy to do and to remind you of how they are disclosed while they are doing it. All disclosure does for us is make it easier to determine which new articles and drafts need to be sent to AfD and who is likely to either quit or be blocked. I think having a “ban all paid editors” RfC would be a waste of time so I don’t support having one, but I also don’t think that if suddenly every paid editor decided to declare that the problem would be any better. TonyBallioni (talk) 13:27, 29 November 2017 (UTC)
The most important thing about disclosure is to give readers, users and researchers, a way to find out who paid for the article or edits. It's the dishonesty (by omission) to readers that is not just terrible informational service by Wikipedia, concealing relevant information, but it is also wrong. If we cannot stop it, we ask for disclosure -- it's the ethical thing to do (and enforce, to the extent possible). Alanscottwalker (talk) 17:42, 29 November 2017 (UTC)
TonyBallioni, as you state, disclosure makes it easier determine which new articles and drafts need to be sent to AfD, and identifies spam edits. If all undisclosed paid editors started disclosing their edits, we would have a significantly easier time identifying spam and promotional articles, and picking up on editors who engage in bad practices as paid editors. - Bilby (talk) 13:50, 2 December 2017 (UTC)
  • In dealing with paid promotional editing, it is necessary to realize that essentially all paid editing will be promotional , because that is almost invariably the reason for hiring an editor: sometimes just to make a new entry to provide directory information for someone who is not notable enough for volunteers to be interested in order to provide for increased recognition, or more usually to provide information in a new or existing article that will directly promote the business or other interests of the employer. (Much of this is also true of ordinary editing by fans or associates without direct financial interests). The key thing is to realize that the very fact of making the entry is promotional, and that there is essentially no such thing as paid non-promotional editing.
It is necessary to deal with this from two directions: One is to decrease the extent of promotional material in Wikipedia, regardless of who is doing the editing. The other is to reduce or at least indicate that editing which is directly or indirectly paid, because such editing will have at the very least a greatly increased probability of being promotional. What we mean by a non-promotional paid editors making a positive contribution to WP is paid editors who tries to minimize the extent of promotion--but this involves a necessary conflict with the intend of the person paying them. The only actually beneficial paid editors are those who can succeed in diminishing the promotionalism to a minimum while still satisfying the client. From what I have been told by paid editors, this can be extraordinarily difficult, and requires both an excellent knowledge of the guidelines and current interpretation at Wikipedia to make the article non-promotional enough to be accepted and and an excellent ability at PR, to manage the employer's expectations.
From what I've seen, and been told, most such editors find it very difficult to persuade clients to let them write acceptable articles. They apparently find it necessary to reject a high proportion of would-be clients, either because their notability is so low that the only thing to write would be advertising, or because while they are notable enough that a proper article could be written, the only thing that they actually want is advertising.
This leads to the conclusion that paid editing is always in danger of being disruptive. There has been only one possible reason for tolerating it, which is that we will not succeed in eliminating it, and we can better control it if there is a legitimate way of doing it. I no longer think this the case; we need to eliminate it, because we can only control it by making it counterproductive to even attempt it, and to make the danger of being banned for it so great that no knowledgable editor will risk doing it. We will then be able to send a clear message to people who would have articles to their liking: you may not pay anyone else to do it, and anyone who claims otherwise is attempting to deceive or defraud you.
If this is regarded as too radical,then at least we should not endorse it. Giving a user right will do that, and provide evidence the WP offers paid writers a clear career pathway--become trusted enough to obtain the user-right. In essence, we will be providing a list of authorized editors, and letting them use Wikipedia to directly advertise their business. It means that we have given up on NOT ADVOCACY, and just ask that you advertise in WP only to a moderate extent. The proposal was meant well, but it is a step downwards. DGG ( talk ) 05:16, 2 December 2017 (UTC)
  • Comment Reading through the above arguments and I find myself agreeing with User:DGG. Our readers and society at large believe we do not accept advertisements (and IMO they deserve a website that does not accept advertisements). We will hurt our reputation if we legitimize paid editing further. Yes we have trialed allowing it in a regulated manner and IMO that has not resulted in positive outcomes.
Should we have mechanisms were organizations can request "fixes" to articles? Yes definitely. Should we allow organizations to demand an article about themselves be written or request an entire rewrite of the article about them? No we should not. And currently the latter gums up the processes attempting to help the former.
One of the few mostly above board paid editor, CorporateM has required massive volunteer inputs to address their work here, as they are still here to mostly advertise for their clients not write a neutral encyclopedia. Our priority needs to make it harder to do undisclosed paid editing as that is were the problem mostly is. Paid editing of any kind, outside of WiR, is simple not useful. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 09:06, 2 December 2017 (UTC)
I actually disagree. I have seen many situations where people initially had no clue about our notability criteria, had their entries speedy deleted because they did not know how to write articles properly, and after that they were trying to figure out what is the best way to write an article about them or their organizations. If the subject was not notable or borderline notable after all it would indeed involve promotion, and if they try to hire an experience Wikipedia editor the editor would indeed be involved in activities which clearly contradict our policies. However, often the subject is actually notable, and then it is often a matter of knowing Wikipedia policies to write an article which would survive an AfD. This may still involve promotion, but often it does not.--Ymblanter (talk) 09:32, 2 December 2017 (UTC)
I see value in making a clear statement that only those who disclose - and therefore have the paid editor flag - are allowed to edit as paid editors. I understand the concern that it further legitimizes paid editing, but at the same time it offers a benefit of sorts to disclosed paid editors, so long as it isn't used to target their edits. However, I'm concerned that selecting some paid editors to be "allowed" to edit WP means that we're entering the realms of giving a competitive advantage to some commercial interests and not others. I can imagine a scenario where PR groups (perhaps justifiably) complain that they are not permitted to have the paid editing flag, while their competitors are making money because they are allowed to edit WP with the flag. - Bilby (talk) 13:50, 2 December 2017 (UTC)
  • I like Opabina's suggestion. I like it a lot.
But the real problem we have is that the public views Wikipedia as a platform for promotion. and with that view, people want "in" - and as long as that is true, the demand for paid editing will continue. Remember the semi-celeb who said in The Entrepreneur that you were a troll, DGG? I talked with her and she was outraged that she couldn't have a spot in WP. Talking with everyday paid editors (not the rare, CLUEful kind), this is what they tell me. Their clients view it as essential that they be "in" and so do their managers and PR/social media people.
At the same time, "the public" looks to WP for neutral and good information when they want to learn something.
Damn humans.
But proposals that don't deal with the demand for paid editing are generally going to fail to really put a dent in things. As long as the demand is there -- as long as there is a widespread view that WP is an essential vehicle for promotion, the problem will never go away.
In my view this is something that needs... the attention of WMF PR people. That is their job. I tried to talk with them about this but my very strong sense was that, unsurprisingly, they are PR people and they want to talk about happy things and they do not want to talk about problems. They want the public to associate WP with all its shiny happy unicorn elements. Not this kind of dreck.
So we have no public voice fighting against this widespread misperception and so the demand goes on (and gets stronger, the more WP persists and becomes important) which means the black market will go on and anything we do is just different fingers in the dam.
In the meantime yes we just keep working on the ground, deleting PROMO violations and yes we should keep trying to raise N standards.
But I appreciate Opabina's suggestion. It is a very interesting middle ground between "everyone can edit" and the need to review conflicted edits before they publish. I really like that. Jytdog (talk) 18:38, 2 December 2017 (UTC)
  • I initially was intrigued by the idea of creating a paid editor flag, but reading the further discussion makes me feel pretty much inclined to opposed it. I think the concern that it would tend to approve commercial interests is a significant disadvantage, and it's not worth all the software development that would be needed to implement it.
I want to repeat something that I've said multiple times before, and it goes very much to what Doc James said about Should we have mechanisms where organizations can request "fixes" to articles? Yes definitely. Although almost all commercially-motivated editing is a bad thing for us, not all of it is. The example I like to give is where a clearly notable person or organization, for whom we already have a page, hires an editor to revert obvious vandalism and obvious BLP violations, while carefully following our disclosure requirements and refraining from making any other kinds of direct page edits. That's a good thing, not a bad thing, and it's downright silly to insist that such edits must be made only via edit requests. We need to remember that. Unfortunately, that appears to be relatively rare. It can be readily distinguished from the bad kinds of paid editing because it does not involve new content creation. At this point, I cannot think of any kind of new content creation by paid editors that we should allow.
At the bottom of WT:COIN#Evolving paid policy (we have too many places where the same things are being discussed simultaneously), DGG presented a detailed argument for banning that I read with interest. As much as I see the appeal of simply having a total ban on paid editing, I feel like the two scenarios there actually provide an argument against doing it in a sweeping manner. In each of those scenarios, the actual effect of a total ban would not be to prevent the paid editing. All that would happen is that the last editor in the chain (the only one that actually disclosed) would actually simply not disclose, but the spam would happen anyway. It's a tough problem. As much merit as there may be to saying that all commercially-motivated editing should be banned, we are dealing with real people in the real world, and being disgusted with the idea that we should not ban it for fear of driving it underground, does not make it shrewd to do things that would actually drive it underground. The goal should always be to protect our content, not to take a stand.
Also, there is something distinctively, well... rotten, about paid editing arranged by brokers such as Upwork. As an aside in another discussion that is happening at WT:PAID#Specific company names, an idea occurred to me that I want to raise here. We could place a total ban on paid edits that are arranged by such brokers, particularly when those brokers engage in practices that contravene the existing ToU. We should effectively blacklist such organizations. The community has already agreed to saying, in WP:OUTING, There are job posting sites where employers publicly post advertisements to recruit paid Wikipedia editors. Linking to such an ad in a forum such as the Conflict of interest noticeboard is not a violation of this policy. I think we should make maximal use of that, and feel free to aggressively investigate paid edits coming from such sites. --Tryptofish (talk) 18:45, 2 December 2017 (UTC)
With the large caveat that the conversation so far in this thread only represents a few persons, and might not represent a larger community consensus, and leaving aside the question of a paid editor flag, I think if the community wants to, in principle, be against all paid editing, then it is probably simplest to enact this as a policy, and align all of the pre-existing guidance accordingly. It's increasingly difficult to write guidance saying we really don't like X, but here is what you should do if you're doing X. This would be in full realization that it would not stop paid editing, and would in itself just increase the number of undetected paid editors. Other than curbing demand (which I can't see a way to do while still trying to keep Wikipedia a popular web site), the only way to reduce this number is to improve methods of detection. Surely some computer science professors, possibly together with sociology professors, with a team of PhD candidates at their disposal could be enticed to work on this problem? isaacl (talk) 21:27, 2 December 2017 (UTC)
I agree that improving detection is more likely to help, than just about anything else. And for that matter, it would be useful to work with New Page Patrol and Recent Changes to get as strong enforcement as possible under existing policy, even just at the level of reverting. But I think that we need to be more nuanced than just banning all of it. --Tryptofish (talk) 23:59, 2 December 2017 (UTC)
Personally, I think all non-neutral editing should be combatted, without necessarily focusing on paid editing. But the areas to which I have contributed are not targets of paid editing, so I appreciate others feel more strongly about trying to fight problematic paid editors. As someone whose forte is crafting precise language, I'm all for nuance, but for better or worse, English Wikipedia's decision-making traditions give disproportionate influence to more uncompromising editors, making it pretty hard to reach a consensus view. And if there is a sufficient number of editors who consider any guidance for paid editors to be avoided, I don't know how to reconcile this with other views. isaacl (talk) 08:22, 3 December 2017 (UTC)
Every time we took a policy to the community to restrict paid editing, we weren't able to get support. The only time we did manage to restrict it, with the inclusion of disclosure, the community did so by holding the discussion more broadly on Meta. It is possible that the community has changed enough to support an outright ban, but I think it unlikely. In regard to a software solution, it is possible to detect certain patterns of editing, and this will include paid editors. But either the range it is looking for has to be very narrow, or it will include large numbers of false positives. - 23:01, 2 December 2017 (UTC)
Bilby, the terms-of-use discussion on Meta was not a community discussion. The people commenting there were readers. You can see this clearly if you click on their global contribs. Many had made few or no edits before the discussion. I haven't taken the time to check what percentage were readers or occasional editors, but after checking quite a few, it appeared to be significant. SarahSV (talk) 23:14, 2 December 2017 (UTC)
Fair enough. Perhaps then the only way we were able to get change through was to have the discussion apart from editors. Either way, I think it would be quite a change in consensus to see a ban supported on WP. Which isn't impossible, but would be a big turnaround. - Bilby (talk) 23:20, 2 December 2017 (UTC)
Bilby, that's why the WMF organized it as they did: (a) invite readers to comment, not the community; (b) insist that community consensus is required to replace the disclosure provision, rather than to enact it. Both steps were prompted by and utilized the community's long-standing failure to reach consensus about paid editing. SarahSV (talk) 23:36, 2 December 2017 (UTC)
That was my understanding as well. - Bilby (talk) 23:38, 2 December 2017 (UTC)
Regardless of what happened in the past, I think that it would be more likely to get community support, as well as be more likely to actually accomplish something, if we focus on the brokers that ignore the ToU. --Tryptofish (talk) 23:55, 2 December 2017 (UTC)
Well, readers are part of the Wikipedia community, just not the editing community. Although the desires of readers have to be weighed against the resulting time demands on editors, the opinions of readers are far too often not adequately taken into account, given that most people participating in these discussions are active editors. isaacl (talk) 08:44, 3 December 2017 (UTC)
It's not clear to me either that there is a consensus to ban paid editing, hence my large caveat. However so far within the most recent discussions, only the question of whether or not such a ban would have an effect on paid editing has come up, rather than whether or not the ban is desirable in principle, and so my comment was addressing this aspect. There is another key objection, which is that edits should be evaluated solely based on their content. This viewpoint is harder to reconcile with a complete ban, as it objects to the idea of a ban. But as the number of good-faith editors become outnumbered by non-neutral point of view editors, and the problems with dealing with problematic edits become unmanageable, it's possible more editors will become amenable to a ban in principle. isaacl (talk) 08:36, 3 December 2017 (UTC)

Arbitrary section breakEdit

  • No, it's not clear, not yet anyway, because we haven't had the debate and while there are still some other issues waiting a verdict it's even too soon to consider one. It will never be possible to eradicate paid editing, but 'banning' it would at least be symbolic and provide a clear lever to do something about each case we discover without endless palaver each time. I don't think I'm mischaracterising anyone when I state yet again that paid editing is totally antithetical to the concept of voluntary projects - which it is, and there can be no counter argument. Many of us volunteers have a right to feel exploited and abused, not only, but also for the work we have to put in to smoke out and block the miscreants and find solutions. Advocating creating a Paid Editors' user right on Wiki is IMO absurd, it would just legitimate PE one step further, i.e. totaly counter productive to what we are trying to achieve! Is that the concept of 'management'?
This list , which was the closest the community dangerously got to such a solution, was voted to be kept at this MfD. However, not without some disquiet and from people such as DGG who, like me, would prefer to see paid editing ultimately banned entirely. That list is as a worthless as a dead parrot and is a joke. Its not a binding document of any kind such as a professional charter or a recognised code of practice such as the Bar Association or the Law Society. These people who blatantly exploit our voluntary work will sign anything, join any project, and request any user right if it keeps them in business.
Consensus can change, and as some of the discussion go back nearly 10 years, consensus is changing, and there is a growing manifest disapproval of paid editing of any kind. Already in some of those older discussions is was stated that so much of the paid editing is black-hat anyway it may as well be completely disallowed. Add to that the fact that we have moved ahead quite a lot with our efforts at COI and SPI, and that we have a new, supposedly, more competent team at NPR for whom with ACTRIAL having significantly fewer pages to check, paid pages stand out even more clearly.
It should be obvious to any reasonable person that the creation of a second account just for the purpose of paid editing is just as unlikely to be a solution and has already been abused. The editor is the same person and no one can successfully manage a deliberate split personality. It should be equally evident to any honest person that Wikipedia was not created for people to make a living out of. Anyone who hasn't done so yet, should read DGG's post above, and not once, but twice. Kudpung กุดผึ้ง (talk) 10:56, 3 December 2017 (UTC)
I hope that consensus does change. I also think that we have a problem here, with a very small group of editors basically preaching to the choir and repeating themselves. So, paradoxically I'll admit, I'm going to repeat myself:
Also, there is something distinctively, well... rotten, about paid editing arranged by brokers such as Upwork... We could place a total ban on paid edits that are arranged by such brokers, particularly when those brokers engage in practices that contravene the existing ToU. We should effectively blacklist such organizations. The community has already agreed to saying, in WP:OUTING, There are job posting sites where employers publicly post advertisements to recruit paid Wikipedia editors. Linking to such an ad in a forum such as the Conflict of interest noticeboard is not a violation of this policy. I think we should make maximal use of that, and feel free to aggressively investigate paid edits coming from such sites.
That much is doable. I think the community is likely to agree with it, and it would have the effect of banning a very high percentage of paid edits. --Tryptofish (talk) 19:01, 3 December 2017 (UTC)
Upwork is one of the few Freelance sites which we have some chance of identifying jobs from, and have had some success asking for contractors who contravene our policies to be blocked. I don;t see an advantage in banning Upwork. Similarly, I don't see an advantage in banning paid editing based on where they were hired, as opposed to how they have acted.
We currently do aggressively follow up on ads coming from the sites where we can identify them. - Bilby (talk) 19:57, 3 December 2017 (UTC)
Given that it is Foundation policy that paid editing must be identified, we ought to be able to hope for legal assistance in dealing with the others. I have deliberately worded it as "ought to be able to hope", for there is no indications at all that the WMF are willing to provide the degree of assistance that would be necessary. DGG ( talk ) 21:10, 3 December 2017 (UTC)
We would still have the same ability to identify jobs from these sites if we banned them. After all, the sites would still be readable, and they already try to hide what's going on. Has there ever been beneficial editing from such sites? I think that there is a compelling case for banning when the sites do not comply with the ToU. I actually think that that would be an easy sell to the community. It's true that WMF will be useless in assisting us, but we are still free to insist that ToU be followed. --Tryptofish (talk) 22:22, 3 December 2017 (UTC)
If the ban was in any way effective, then the jobs would just move to Freelancer. If we ban that, they move to Guru. Or to Fiverr. And yes, there has been beneficial editing from such sites. Along with a lot that wasn't. However, the only reason we know this is because we can identify at least some of the jobs.
We need to be careful to avoid the trap where we assume that because we can see a problem coming from a site, that site is the main source of the problem. The primary reason Upwork features so prominently in our anti-paid editing actions is that it is visible, not necessarily because it is the main source of problems. - Bilby (talk) 22:35, 3 December 2017 (UTC)
It has frequently been said that a ban on paid editing "would in itself just increase the number of undetected paid editors." (to use a wording earlier in this discussion). This would only be true if the present declared paid editors were to continue their oooperations as undeclared paid editors, knowing full well that they are in direct violation of the terms of use and enWP policy. If any of them would actually do that, they should not be editing here at all. DGG ( talk ) 21:10, 3 December 2017 (UTC)
No, that isn't the concern. The concern is that their clients - both the ones they would have accepted, and the ones that they would have turned down by explaining why a page won't be viable for them - will turn to undisclosed paid editors to get the work done. - Bilby (talk) 21:22, 3 December 2017 (UTC)
I believe that it's useful to ask, when considering pretty much any method for dealing with COI editing, whether the action being contemplated would actually reduce the number of harmful edits. The ultimate goal should not be to make paid editors comply, but to prevent or undo harmful edits to content. --Tryptofish (talk) 22:28, 3 December 2017 (UTC)
I agree with the goal. My feeling, though, is that we are best able to undo harmful edits when we can see that they've occurred, and the simplest method of spotting them is to have the paid editor disclose. - Bilby (talk) 22:37, 3 December 2017 (UTC)
I agree. That's why what I mean is that it would apply to all such sites, not just Upwork, which is just an example. --Tryptofish (talk) 00:41, 4 December 2017 (UTC)
To clarify, I was eliding slightly; perhaps I should have said "would in itself not reduce the number of undetected paid editors". A ban would not reduce the current level of problematic undisclosed editors, and there is a good probability that the market of clients willing to hire undisclosed paid editors (either knowingly or unknowingly) would increase, at least in the short term. The key point is that the community should decide on enacting a ban not on whether it will affect the number of undetected paid editors, but on other considerations. For example, a good pragmatic case can be made that it would decrease time-consuming volunteer overhead. isaacl (talk) 23:04, 3 December 2017 (UTC)
I agree with that. I think that making things run more smoothly for good-faith volunteers is a good reason, as is reducing the amount of harmful content that has to be dealt with. It's not about punishing people, or about, well, improving their minds; rather, it's about the effect that it will have on the project. And I believe that there is already a strong consensus that en-Wiki wants users to obey the WMF ToU, so it follows logically that we should not want edits coming from broker sites that disregard the ToU. It's really a case of making formal what is already de facto a community norm. --Tryptofish (talk) 00:48, 4 December 2017 (UTC)
I don't think it will be nearly that straightforward. Holding a middle person responsible for the contractual agreement between two third parties is a hard sell. isaacl (talk) 04:55, 4 December 2017 (UTC)
Obviously, I have no crystal ball about how the community will respond to any RfC. But about "holding a middle person responsible", that's not really what it is, because we are in no position to actually exert harm on the brokers. We would be taking a formal position that, because the brokers do not actually operate in accordance with the ToU (indeed, all the more so because they don't hold the editors and the employers to the ToU), we are banning edits by editors whose agreements with employers violate the ToU. We wouldn't be banning the brokers, because the brokers don't edit here, but we would be banning edits by editors who, by arranging their payments in that manner, are violating the ToU because these brokers have policies that violate the ToU. --Tryptofish (talk) 23:41, 4 December 2017 (UTC)
By definition, since the brokers are not editing Wikipedia, their policies are not bound by Wikipedia's terms of use. But in any case, a broker who, for legal reasons, is not involved in the final contractual agreement between the client and the contractor can't dictate what they can do. The broker would have to become a party of the contract in order to have any standing to seek a remedy for a contract violation. isaacl (talk) 04:13, 5 December 2017 (UTC)
That's not really true. As shown below, there are ToU at these sites that pretty much require paid editors to work under conditions that violate the WMF ToU, and while I suppose that an editor and the client can agree on the side to disregard the broker's ToU and instead obey ours, that must be a rare and atypical occurrence. --Tryptofish (talk) 20:57, 5 December 2017 (UTC)
Sure it is; the recruiting sites have these policies in place to protect themselves from accusations of privacy breaches, not to restrict clients and contractors from agreeing upon their own terms. Regardless, if there is consensus to ban work solicited through specific recruiting sites, so be it. But the same logic can be applied to the Wikipedia:Reward board: Wikipedia policy forbids outing, unless the client agrees to release its information. isaacl (talk) 23:52, 5 December 2017 (UTC)
Thanks. Wikipedia does not consider adherence to WP:PAID to be outing. --Tryptofish (talk) 00:03, 6 December 2017 (UTC)
Exactly, and if a contractor tells a client, I can't fulfill my contract without the ability to disclose your identity, and the client agrees, this does not violate any client confidence, and the recruiting site can't do anything about it. isaacl (talk) 03:58, 6 December 2017 (UTC)
That's assuming that the contractor and client actually do those things. Whether or not the site can actually force them not to, the site discourages them from complying. I'm pretty sure that it's a lot more common for contractors and clients to be motivated to find ways to skirt what we require, than to do what is right. But anyway, we are going around in circles. And I'm starting to think that my idea may be moot anyway, if per the discussion below there are legal considerations about advertising that make all paid editing unlawful. --Tryptofish (talk) 17:49, 6 December 2017 (UTC)
Just a couple of quick points. I think it is correct that if we remove disclosed paid editing we'll reduce the workload, but that's because we'll be unaware of a greater proportion of undisclosed paid editing, and therefore won't be able to do anything about it. If the solution to reducing the workload is to make it so we can't address the problem, I don't see it as a viable approach. Second, in regard to sites like Upwork not enforcing out ToU, I can't see how they could - Upwork would be as unaware of the specifics of the jobs and whether or not the paid editor disclosed as we are, and therefore in no better position to enforce it than us. I think it would be reasonable to expand our efforts to ask Upwork to remove contractors who we can show are banned or indef blocked on WP, though. - Bilby (talk) 02:39, 4 December 2017 (UTC)
I agree that your first point is a good argument against an absolute ban. About your second point, this isn't really a matter of whether brokers could enforce the ToU if they wanted to. Rather, the brokers all operate on a premise that inherently violates the ToU. They actually have their own ToUs that specify that hired editors must protect the privacy of the clients. --Tryptofish (talk) 23:41, 4 December 2017 (UTC)
I haven't seen that requirement before - I'd be surprised if the broker is effectively insisting that all clients sign an NDA with the contractor. Do you know where I can find that in Upwork's policies? - Bilby (talk) 23:59, 4 December 2017 (UTC)
Actually, I'm saying that based on my recollection of an earlier discussion somewhere on-wiki. When I said that, I spent some time looking for that discussion, and did not find it. @Doc James: and @Smallbones: do either of you recollect that discussion? --Tryptofish (talk) 00:17, 5 December 2017 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Fiverr (www and Upwork [1] have different Terms of Service, but both appear to force violations of our Terms of Use (ToU), at least in their basic forms via our rules on copyright and disclosure.

  • Fiverr on confidentiality (under Non-permitted useage, similar under Ownership)apparently prohibiting disclosure on-Wiki "Privacy & Identity - You may not publish or post other people's private and confidential information. Any exchange of personal information required for the completion of a service must be provided in the order page. Sellers further confirm that whatever information they receive from the buyer, which is not public domain, shall not be used for any purpose whatsoever other than for the delivery of the work to the buyer. Any users who engage and communicate off of Fiverr will not be protected by our Terms of Service." The 2nd sentence may provide an out in that particular case.
  • Fiverr on copyright (under Ownership) "Unless clearly stated otherwise on the seller's Gig page/description, when the work is delivered, and subject to payment, the buyer is granted all intellectual property rights, including but not limited to, copyrights for the work delivered from the seller, and the seller waives any and all moral rights therein. The delivered work shall be considered work-for-hire under the U.S. Copyright Act." Again there is the "on the order page" or "Gig page/description" out, but I think this is more actionable here - we could require an OTRS waiver for copyright since the basic assumption is that the client owns the copyright, not the paid editor.
  • Upwork on confidentiality/disclosure (under confidentiality) "To the extent a Client or Freelancer provides Confidential Information to the other, the recipient will protect the secrecy of the discloser’s Confidential Information with the same degree of care as it uses to protect its own Confidential Information, but in no event with less than due care, and will: (a) not disclose or permit others to disclose another’s Confidential Information to anyone without first obtaining the express written consent of the owner of the Confidential Information; (b) not use or permit the use of another’s Confidential Information, except as necessary for the performance of Freelancer Services (including, without limitation, the storage or transmission of Confidential Information on or through the Site for use by Freelancer); and (c) limit access to another’s Confidential Information to its personnel who need to know such information for the performance of Freelancer Services." Notice that's a) b) and c)
  • Upwork on copyright. "OWNERSHIP OF WORK PRODUCT AND INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY Upon Freelancer’s receipt of full payment from Client, the Work Product, including without limitation all Intellectual Property Rights in the Work Product, will be the sole and exclusive property of Client, and Client will be deemed to be the author thereof."
  • Both the Upwork's quotes seem much more solid that Fiverr's, except that there is another section on "Side agreements" which says that they can modify the above under certain conditions. Again, IMHO it would be most easily dealt with here by requiring an OTRS waiver on the copyright. Smallbones(smalltalk) 03:52, 5 December 2017 (UTC)
    • None of this precludes the client agreeing to have the contractor release information about it. It remains the responsibility of the contractor to not agree to any terms that prevent fulfilling Wikipedia's terms of use. isaacl (talk) 04:03, 5 December 2017 (UTC)
      • The default agreements contradict Wikipedia policies, so it would be up to both the client and the paid editor to negotiate an agreement that does not contradict our policies. In the case of Fiverr it has to be done by the contractor on the order page. I don't think I've seen anything like this on the site. Since the default agreements gives copyright to the client, it would be quite reasonable on our part to demand a copyright release via OTRS. Smallbones(smalltalk) 05:30, 5 December 2017 (UTC)
        • Tryptofish's proposal was to ban contractors that had been hired via specific freelance recruiting companies, because the companies force a violation of Wikipedia's terms of use regarding disclosure. But in the end the contractor has the responsibility of ensuring its contract permits disclosure. The recruiter can't compel the client not to permit the disclosure of its identity. isaacl (talk) 06:08, 5 December 2017 (UTC)
          • Thanks very much for that information, Smallbones. I think that it's obvious that these sites work on the basis of confidentiality practices that are incompatible with the paid editing disclosure requirements, and copyright practices that are incompatible with our licensing requirements. The fact that, in theory, persons using those sites can use them in violation of the site's stated way of doing business is a pretty weak argument for saying that we should default to allowing edits coming from them. --Tryptofish (talk) 21:03, 5 December 2017 (UTC)
I'm afraid that isn't obvious at all. According to those policies, contractors are expected to keep client details confidential, unless required by the job. A stronger interpretation - that contractors cannot reveal the name of the client in any way - would mean that they would be unable to create websites for clients with the client's details on them, create CV's with their address, or write newsletters on their behalf. The reality is that if the client does not permit the contractor to disclose that they hired the contractor to edit WP, then the contractor is simply unable to perform the job, (both per polices on WP and Fiverr/Upwork), and should inform the client of this. NDAs are not compatible with paid editing on WP. However, if the client agrees, the contract can proceed and the requirements of WP, Upwork and Fiverr policies can be met because of that agreement.
There are good arguments against paid editing, but not this. Let's keep them a bit more grounded. - Bilby (talk) 00:11, 6 December 2017 (UTC)
Re: the contractor is simply unable to perform the job: They are able to perform the job, and they do that all the time, but only by violating our ToU. I think what I'm saying does not lack for groundedness, but I'm just recognizing the reality that it's nothing like paid editors at such sites working positively with clients to follow our policies. --Tryptofish (talk) 00:18, 6 December 2017 (UTC)
Upwork requires that jobs meet legal obligations. If a contractor does not meet WP's TOU, they are not meeting their legal obligations. If they cannot do that because the client will not allow the contractor to disclose, then the contractor is unable to legally do the job. If they do try to perform the job anyway, they will either violate Upwork's policies (by releasing information without the permission of the client, or by violating WP's policies) or WP's policies (if they fail to disclose). There have been editors in the past who have worked with clients from Upwork and produced viable tasks within our policies. But that isn't my main concern. If Upwork was automatically in violation of our policies, I'd have no problem banning jobs from there. However, as they aren't, banning Upwork would just (at best) move the jobs elsewhere, and we have less ability to work with the other sites. - Bilby (talk) 01:09, 6 December 2017 (UTC)
I understand your perspective, and I realize that I'm unlikely to change your mind, which is OK. It seems to me that there is an inherent conflict between the other Terms that they have, and the expectation that freelancers will simultaneously not violate ours. Your mileage may differ. But please understand that I'm not advocating that we just ban edits coming from Upwork, but from "elsewhere" as well, so long as "elsewhere" is another broker site. And of course the argument that any kind of ban will just drive paid edits underground has been discussed back-and-forth here a lot. My thinking is that it would be beneficial to drive paid edits away from sites that profit by brokering them, and towards a more direct relationship between the editor and the client, without another entity in the middle. --Tryptofish (talk) 02:31, 6 December 2017 (UTC)
Personally, I think banning all freelance recruiting sites (aside from the concerns I raised above) is overly circuitous; it feels like an attempt to ban paid editing through a back door. I'd prefer we just take the straightforward approach and work towards building an agreement to ban paid editing, as a matter of principle. As I noted previously, other steps are needed to actually address the problem of paid editing, but a ban would make the basis for these other steps clear. isaacl (talk) 04:10, 6 December 2017 (UTC)
The community has never supported anything like a total ban on paid editing. We can make one if the community wanted to take that path, but all that would accomplish is to make it harder to detect paid editing when it invariably occurs. Similarly, we can ban all sites like Upwork - it would be impossible to enforce, but we could do that. Having done so, the effect would not be to stop paid editing, but once again to make it even harder to detect than it is now. Presuming that we had an effect - as we can't detect most paid editing coming from sites like Upwork, Fiverr, Freelancer and Guru as it is, mu guess is that it would just continue unabated and we'd remain unable to detect most paid editing coming from those sites. The only way we could have an impact is if we could get those sites to refuse to accept Wikipedia editing jobs, but that would just feed the jobs to their competitors. Whatever we do to manage paid editing, sticking our heads in the sand and telling it to go away won't help. - Bilby (talk) 04:39, 6 December 2017 (UTC)
Yes, you've mentioned these points previously, and I've expressed my views too on the key objections to banning paid editing. But I'm unclear on your reasoning on how a ban would make undetected paid editing harder to detect, since you already feel that it can't be detected now. (And amazingly, my orphaned comment immediately below this one (04:45, 4 December 2017) suddenly applies again, so perhaps the conversation can pick up after it.) isaacl (talk) 04:54, 6 December 2017 (UTC)
To be clear, undisclosed paid editing is hard to detect and will remain hard to detect. However, as we permit disclosed paid editing, a portion of the clients that would otherwise go to undisclosed paid editors go instead to editors who are willing to disclose. Disclosed paid editing is, by definition, easy to detect and manage. If we remove disclosed paid editing, the jobs will not go away - instead they will go back to the undisclosed paid editors, increasing the volume of paid edits that we cannot detect.
At the moment, our main advantage is that many undisclosed paid edits happen through public brokers, such as Upwork. While we can't detect most of the jobs offered through those sites, we can detect some - many of the large paid editing sockfarms were detected through the semi-public nature of sites such as Upwork (or, at the time, Elance and Freelancer), starting from Morning277 on. Moving those jobs out of the public eye and into private negotiations would make them much harder to detect, worsening the problem. - Bilby (talk) 05:13, 6 December 2017 (UTC)
Whether or not paid editing is banned, there is still undetected paid editing that remains a problem. Banning it won't make it any harder to detect those who are already going undetected. To address this we need to work on better ways of detection, which likely means some level of automation to avoid being too burdensome on volunteers. The WMF could, for example, allocate grant money to professors to engage in research in this area. If anyone knows any professors who do this type of research, perhaps you could encourage them to consider applying for a WMF grant? isaacl (talk) 04:45, 4 December 2017 (UTC)
Regarding sticking heads in the sand, I think everyone feels that more steps must be taken, and that the conversation doesn't end with banning paid editing. Thus I personally don't feel that anyone is just wishing the problem will disappear. isaacl (talk) 04:58, 6 December 2017 (UTC)
Yes, I also discussed the possibility of undetected paid edits increasing. It's unclear to me that a ban would decrease the amount of work offered on freelance recruiting sites, if they're already mostly going undetected anyway. Nonetheless, thanks for explaining your rationale; it's certainly a distinct possibility. isaacl (talk) 05:23, 6 December 2017 (UTC)

Deceptive advertising, FTC on Native advertisingEdit

Please see FTC policy and FTC Native advertising guide Smallbones(smalltalk) 05:30, 5 December 2017 (UTC)

This was brought up by SarahSV. The FTC came out with the policy and guide in December 2015, so this is after the ToU change. The ToU FAQs read to me like "Any paid editing for businesses on Wikipedia is probably against the FTC rules, but that's for the businesses to deal with." - or perhaps a bit more subtle. There should not be any doubt that the 2015 FTC rules make paid editing for businesses illegal in the US. A few quotes from the policy:

  • “The Commission has long held the view that advertising and promotional messages that are not identifiable as advertising to consumers are deceptive if they mislead consumers into believing they are independent, impartial, or not from the sponsoring advertiser itself.” (p.1)
  • “Regardless of an ad’s format or medium of dissemination, certain principles undergird the Commission’s deceptive format policy.... Such misleadingly formatted advertisements are deceptive even if the product claims communicated are truthful and non-misleading.” (p.10) - Note that this effectively says that "NPOV material" inserted by a business is deceptive advertising.
  • “material misrepresentations as to the nature or source of a commercial communication are deceptive, even if the truth is subsequently made known to consumers.” (p.14)
  • The guide repeats the same idea “Advertisements or promotional messages are deceptive if they convey to consumers expressly or by implication that they’re independent, impartial, or from a source other than the sponsoring advertiser – in other words, that they’re something other than ads.”

There are 2 outs possible, but I don't think they apply to Wikipedia

  • the text is so clearly an ad - say "Stop by for a test drive today"- that no reasonable person would mistake it for an independent article; or
  • it's clearly labeled as an advertisement very close on the same page as the ad in very clear, simple, and direct words

So any posting of text by a business or its paid editors in a Wikipedia article is deceptive advertising, a violation of FTC rules, illegal under the FTC act and a type of fraud. Smallbones(smalltalk) 05:58, 5 December 2017 (UTC)

Perhaps a link to Wikipedia:Conflict of interest#Covert advertising, consumer protection should be added to Wikipedia:Conflict of interest#Solicitations by paid editors, as part of its list emphasizing what a paid editor cannot do, namely, make any edits that consist of advertising? isaacl (talk) 06:31, 5 December 2017 (UTC)
The thing is "advertising" is a very broad word, even when you limit it to advertising by a business. Some reasonable definitions:
  • 1 the action of calling something to the attention of the public especially by paid announcements” Merriam-Webster
  • 1
A notice or announcement in a public medium promoting a product, service, or event or publicizing a job vacancy.
‘advertisements for alcoholic drinks’
 (from Oxford Dictionary)
  • from Jeremy Bullmore in “What is Advertising” Advertising Association of the UK
 writing about businesses “Advertising is any communication, usually paid-for, specifically intended to inform and/or influence one or more people.“
My favorite example is a classified advertisement, e.g. "Hay for sale. Inquire at McDonald's farm." Actually it doesn't have to be in the classifieds - anywhere that appears - whether nailed on a fencepost, painted on a barn, on a billboard, etc. it's an advertisement as long as it is being communicated by the business.
If that is not broad enough consider that WP:NOT also prohibits marketing, promotion, public relations text, advocacy, soap-boxing. Note that marketing is a very general term, including promotion, PR, adverts, and even distribution and transportation of the completed goods. Promotion is a subset of marketing, PR and advertising are subsets of promotion. All the wiggle room has been squeezed out of our definition of "advertising" - though I haven't seen a formal Wikipedia definition. Smallbones(smalltalk) 16:51, 5 December 2017 (UTC)
Leaving aside the question of what is advertising for a moment, should we provide additional guidance and links to those who might hire a paid editor to understand the limitations imposed by regulators in the section I suggested? isaacl (talk) 18:14, 5 December 2017 (UTC)
I don't think so, Isaacl – guidance is not enough here. I think we should start work on a Wikipedia policy with legal considerations. If it is illegal for businesses to advertise in Wikipedia then we will want to make very sure that we are not facilitating, aiding or abetting that illegal practice in any way, and that we have a proper policy that sets out how we will do that. Justlettersandnumbers (talk) 18:43, 5 December 2017 (UTC) Correct username and re-ping Isaacl – sorry! Justlettersandnumbers (talk) 18:46, 5 December 2017 (UTC)
Can we start with adding a link? The conversation about stopping advertising has been going on for a long time, and will continue to take a long time to develop any further steps. It's a hard problem, because it affects all conflict of interest editing and all non-neutral point of view editing (paid or unpaid), which in turn has implications on editing without known real-world identities. None of this will be resolved any time soon. isaacl (talk) 19:30, 5 December 2017 (UTC)
Of course that would be sensible, Isaacl, I'm sorry to have expressed myself so poorly above (now struck through). All I meant to say say, was "no, that isn't enough .... Justlettersandnumbers (talk) 10:34, 6 December 2017 (UTC)


Smallbones, thanks for opening this thread. Pinging others who have discussed this issue: Doc James, Coretheapple, Kudpung.

The Federal Trade Commission's article on native advertising, "Native Advertising: A Guide for Businesses" (2015),[1] relates directly to our problem of hosting pages that are arguably advertisements mimicking the format of Wikipedia articles. The FTC says:

Marketers and publishers are using innovative methods to create, format, and deliver digital advertising. One form is “native advertising,” content that bears a similarity to the news, feature articles, product reviews, entertainment, and other material that surrounds it online. ...

In digital media, native ads often resemble the design, style, and functionality of the media in which they are disseminated. ... The more a native ad is similar in format and topic to content on the publisher's site, the more likely that a disclosure will be necessary to prevent deception.[1]

To judge whether an ad is deceptive under the FTC Act, the FTC considers "both what the ad says and the format it uses to convey that information ... Advertisements or promotional messages are deceptive if they convey to consumers expressly or by implication that they’re independent, impartial, or from a source other than the sponsoring advertiser ...".[1]

One example of an article that looks to me like native advertising is Whistle (company). Whistle makes one product, an activity tracker for dogs. The company sent out press kits with samples to journalists, who responded by publishing stories about the company and product. In 2016 Whistle was acquired by Mars Petcare for $117 million. [2] Mars hired a paid editor to write a Wikipedia article about the company, which contained lots of information about the product based on the sources generated by the press kits. The article was declined at AfC and nominated for speedy deletion as "unambiguous advertising or promotion". But that decision was overturned, so Wikipedia now hosts a free ad for Mars Inc.'s pet tracker (Mars had revenue of US$35 billion in 2017), without signalling the company's involvement to the reader.

Can the FTC help us deal with this kind of article? I like Justlettersandnumbers' idea of drafting a policy with legal implications. Would Doc James be willing to take a request to the Board that they ask the WMF lawyers to write a briefing paper on whether this type of article (we could collect a few examples) violates the FTC Act? Just to be clear, the purpose would not be to cause a problem for individual editors, but to address the companies who pay for this content. SarahSV (talk) 07:02, 6 December 2017 (UTC)


  1. ^ a b c "Native Advertising: A Guide for Businesses", Federal Trade Commission, December 2015.
Indeed, SlimVirgin, I believe that asking the advice of the WMF legal team is the next step. I've no idea whether such a request needs to go through the board, or if it can come directly from en.wp editors following consensus here. Justlettersandnumbers (talk) 10:30, 6 December 2017 (UTC)
  • This is significant. Thanks for the ping and thanks for raising this issue. This is spot-on as far as paid editing is concerned, and drives a stake through the heart of all mechanisms that evade our porous COI rules. Coretheapple (talk) 17:17, 6 December 2017 (UTC)
  • What Coretheapple just said is also exactly what I now think. I'm pleased that this issue has been identified. --Tryptofish (talk) 17:41, 6 December 2017 (UTC)
  • User:Slaporte (WMF) can hopefully weight in. I know legal has said they are willing to accept data around particularly egregious cases. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 18:15, 6 December 2017 (UTC)
  • While I have no issue with saying we would like to address the issue of companies paying for content first, I do believe the same concerns apply to all editors, and so the conflict of interest guidance ought to eventually provide guidance for everyone. isaacl (talk) 20:16, 6 December 2017 (UTC)
  • Should we create a new template for articles that appear to be native advertising—to be placed on the article, not talk page? "This article may violate the United States Federal Trade Commission's rules against native advertising". It could be added to articles promoting a commercial entity where we know or have strong reason to believe that paid editing was involved. If yes, would we have to restrict it to American companies or could we add it to all (given that the WMF is based in the US)? SarahSV (talk) 03:31, 7 December 2017 (UTC)
    • If there is agreement for a template, my suggestion is that it should not mention specific regulations within the template text, and instead refer to something like Wikipedia:Conflict of interest#Covert advertising, consumer protection. Given Wikipedia's global nature, I feel it is better to be more generalized on any displayed warnings. isaacl (talk) 03:55, 7 December 2017 (UTC)
      • I'm not a lawyer, and I don't even play one on TV, but I'm uncomfortable with labeling any of our content as potentially unlawful, because that means that we are knowingly displaying something that is potentially unlawful. If, in fact, it turns out that such content really is unlawful, it should simply be removed right away (much as with copyright violations). --Tryptofish (talk) 20:24, 7 December 2017 (UTC)
  • Indeed, Tryptofish. When I mentioned a "Wikipedia policy with legal considerations" above, it was precisely our copyright policy that I had in mind, and our zero-tolerance practice in attempting to enforce it. With advertising as with copyvio, if there is a possibility that content is illegally hosted, Wikipedia must be seen to be taking the the necessary steps to remove it immediately it is discovered – and also be seen to be taking all possible precaution to prevent it from being added to the project in the first place. So if we are to have a template, it should be one that blanks out the article text until questions surrounding it have been answered. For those who don't already know this: our {{copyviocore}} template can be added by anyone, but can only be removed by an admin (or one of a handful of copyright clerks). This would be a good pattern to follow. Justlettersandnumbers (talk) 21:25, 7 December 2017 (UTC)
  • If there is consensus for a template, I would suggest something milder saying that the article is suspected of containing promotional content, and linking to a guidance page with more details of problematic edits. I'm not sure we should be pre-emptively blanking content that is even slightly suspicious, though. Promotional editing is a problem even with non-paid editors and editors completely unaffiliated with the article's subject; we'd start having blanking wars with accusations of promotional editing. Unmoderated crowdsourced content is only manageable when legal liability is retained by the individual editors. Once the community takes on the role of judging liability (and there are many laws that would have to be taken into consideration), it becomes a lot harder to avoid active moderation. isaacl (talk) 22:41, 7 December 2017 (UTC)
Yes, I don't want editors making legal judgments. But it would be very good if WMF legal would comment, and we should be guided by their legal interpretation. --Tryptofish (talk) 23:20, 7 December 2017 (UTC)
  • We already have {{Advert}}, so perhaps mention of the Federal Trade Commission could be added to that, but worded differently, avoiding the word violation.
Doc James, as a trustee, can you say what the best way is to approach the legal department for help? Slaporte (WMF) and Jrogers (WMF), I'm wondering whether it would make sense for a group of editors, or the WMF, to approach the Federal Trade Commission with concerns that companies are inserting native advertising disguised as articles into Wikipedia, and that the community has been too divided to stop it. Can you say whether the legal department has ever looked into that issue? SarahSV (talk) 00:18, 8 December 2017 (UTC)
  • The WMF is the publisher here and it would have to comply with this FTC policy, just like it has to comply with copyright law. Just like the NYT does.
What in the world would you go to the FTC about? They would say "Wait... you let anybody edit your website? There is no review before changes to articles are published? Are you crazy? Of course you cannot permit companies to slip ad copy into articles about themselves." ... "Wait, you are committed to being open, and to protecting the privacy of your "editors"??! We probably should just shut you down and protect the public from you idiots." That is about how I imagine that conversation would go.
These "let's get all serious about advertising law" conversations kill me because there is no way for Wikipedia-as-it-is to comply. Something drastic would have to change so that the WMF would have control over what gets published. Like any normal publisher does. Jytdog (talk) 05:33, 8 December 2017 (UTC)
The companies who pay for native advertising can be asked to comply. SarahSV (talk) 06:09, 8 December 2017 (UTC)
Sure, one can ask them. We already do, actually. Disclose + prior review is what we ask. Jytdog (talk) 06:12, 8 December 2017 (UTC)
That doesn't help the reader, and the reviews are rarely thorough. I'm wondering whether those companies can be asked by the FTC to comply. SarahSV (talk) 06:17, 8 December 2017 (UTC)
We should be careful what we wish. Given current U.S. regulatory trends, the outcome could be affrimation of a corporation's unfettered right to place paid advertising on Wikipedia. — Neonorange (talk) 06:28, 8 December 2017 (UTC)
If Wikipedia.en appeals for protection based on server location in the U.S. it should be based on the strongest constitutional protection available—free press, not a requlatory process subject to who's in power. That keeps government and corporate forces out. (Forgive me for my bias—when one has a hammer, every target looks to be a nail.) — Neonorange (talk) 06:54, 8 December 2017 (UTC)
I'm not quite sure what you mean; violations can always be reported to the FTC, and it will decide on what appropriate action to take. isaacl (talk) 08:22, 8 December 2017 (UTC)
Well this is why the WMF's legal opinion is being sought, so the legal responsibilities of all affected parties can be determined. If Wikipedia must change to continue to exist, then everyone should know sooner rather than later. isaacl (talk) 08:22, 8 December 2017 (UTC)
I will be surprised if they say anything... Jytdog (talk) 13:50, 8 December 2017 (UTC)
I think it would be a mistake to take it onto ourselves to ask the FTC. If anyone ends up asking them, it should be WMF legal. Otherwise, we are putting ourselves in the position of taking a legal role on behalf of the WMF. If WMF legal gives us guidance, great. And if there really are legal liability issues that affect WMF websites, they will. But if they are non-committal, then we are always free to enact stricter local policies than the global ToU. But don't template this stuff: just delete it. --Tryptofish (talk) 17:58, 8 December 2017 (UTC)
  • I see no problem with a template message inspired by the FTC rule. Websites can protect themselves as they see fit. they are not regulatory bodies but have a right to see to it that their sites are not abused in that fashion. Wikipedia is noted for not being good at that. The only problem is one of implementation. If an article is already unambiguous advertising it is usually deleted, or should be. Coretheapple (talk) 15:54, 8 December 2017 (UTC)
Well, Coretheapple, I think it's much more that it should be, and only occasionally that it is. Some editors seem to take the view that if a paid or COI contribution is not grossly and irredeemably promotional in tone, it is not advertisement. My own view is that if something was created in order to promote, then it is by its nature unambiguous promotion, irrespective of its tone or appearance. It seems to me that the FTC may be taking a similar view. It was suggested in this AfD that it may be time to see if there has been a change in community consensus on this, which might lead to a change in policy. I note with interest that this more recent AfD followed a very different path. Justlettersandnumbers (talk) 10:10, 9 December 2017 (UTC)
@Justlettersandnumbers: I agree with you 100% that tone or appearance is irrelevant. If the community position on this is changing then I would be both surprised and pleased. Coretheapple (talk) 15:46, 9 December 2017 (UTC)
The first of those two AfDs raises an interesting question: whether, regardless of what the FTC determines, the community might be ready to expand policy to be stronger than the ToU, to make promotional content a sufficient reason to default to delete at AfD unless the topic is unambiguously notable. I think that might be worth exploring. --Tryptofish (talk) 16:16, 9 December 2017 (UTC)
Wildly disparate outcomes in AfDs are not unusual. Coretheapple (talk) 16:23, 9 December 2017 (UTC)
In cases where there is no identified conflict of interest, tone and appearance is all we have to go by to evaluate promotional content. Some of the quoted examples in the FTC guidance page cover this, too, where a link that would normally be expected to bring you to a non-promotional page instead takes you to an advertisement, regardless of who wrote the destination page. isaacl (talk) 17:26, 9 December 2017 (UTC)

Another breakEdit

Sorry to start a conversation and then just disappear - real world obligations. It looks like this has all been discussed before, e.g. at User:Smallbones/Questions on FTC rules (the talk page there is also very interesting). This was a petition for information that I sent to the FTC in February 2014. Was it effective? Well, the FTC didn't send a reply to me or make one in public. OTOH, I have good reason to believe, via private conversations, that it reached the right people.

Specific replies to the above section:

  • Our rules on copyright are a very good model for what we can do here. Who'd have thunk that WP could have stopped the deluge of ripped-off images that flood other internet sites? But - with help from the WMF - we made policies and enforcement mechanisms to stop this and it works - usually less than a dozen DMCA takedown requests each year.
  • Sarah is correct that we need to be very careful to avoid legal threats here. No editor should ever threaten to take another editor to court. If we allowed that, much of our writing would come to a screeching halt. But we do need to be able to discuss in general how one group of editors (probably a large majority) can deal with another group of editors who appear to be breaking the law. One possible response would be "if you, as an individual want to exercise your right (or duty) as a citizen to report a crime in progress, you are free to do so - just keep it off-Wiki." That would be in many ways worse than simple legal threats. Surely, we as a community can come up with something better than that. But doing nothing is not an option.
  • We certainly need to get an opinion from WMF legal, but sometimes when they get asked a direct question their response is something like "We can't advise editors, only the WMF." If they can't answer there might be something else we could do before asking the FTC. Any possible options appreciated here, but the only thing I can think of is going to a public interest lawyer (perhaps Chris Hoofnagle of UC Berkeley, who wrote a book on the FTC). Smallbones(smalltalk) 17:10, 8 December 2017 (UTC)
These are all very good points, especially the analogy to copyright. We are not copyright lawyers but we act against copyright violations every day. Coretheapple (talk) 15:48, 9 December 2017 (UTC)
At a minimum we ought to know what the WMF considers to be necessary to cover its own liability. If it doesn't feel that immediate article blanking is necessary, for example, to protect its status as a distributor of information without editorial control, then this would be useful to know. For individual editors, I think the question will come down more to what process can be agreed upon that will not be unduly onerous. Unless a lot of volunteers appear to review everything for promotional editing, it's going to be difficult to be proactive in monitoring it. As I mentioned previously, I think getting researchers to help with automated detection would be highly desirable. isaacl (talk) 17:38, 9 December 2017 (UTC)
Frankly I'm not concerned with the WMF's liability. They have a paid staff and can reach out to the community if they feel there is an issue from the Foundation perspective. On paid editing their actions have been limited and grudging. I do agree with you in general however. Coretheapple (talk) 23:05, 9 December 2017 (UTC)
It's not a personal concern; it's just closing the loop on what might keep the servers from running. Otherwise, they'll be a lot of speculation about what may or may not be necessary. If the answer is "nothing more is needed", then it removes some potential constraints. isaacl (talk) 23:49, 9 December 2017 (UTC)
WMF's own liability? We already can assume what they will say, they have no liability because they do not create the content. Liability falls on the advertiser. -- Alanscottwalker (talk) 13:07, 10 December 2017 (UTC)
We can assume a lot of things; nonetheless, it would be nice to hear the WMF's own take on their role as an unmoderated content distributor versus a publisher, and how this interacts with the relevant advertising regulations. (As evidenced by some earlier posts, some editors have a different view than yours.)isaacl (talk) 15:22, 10 December 2017 (UTC)
If you expect them to say anything other than they have no liability, it's a waste of time. Alanscottwalker (talk) 15:42, 10 December 2017 (UTC)
Our responsibility as editors is to ask them and be interested in any substantive reply that they might give. But beyond that, yeah, if they say nothing after a reasonable amount of time or just blow it off like that, then we as a community should feel free to enact policies that are more strict than the ToU. We just should not be making legal determinations; simply base it on editing policy. --Tryptofish (talk) 15:54, 10 December 2017 (UTC)
Our responsibility as editors to ask them? No, it's not. At any rate, you are free to ask them anything you want, but why you would expect them to tell you they have any liability is beyond reason. -- Alanscottwalker (talk) 15:59, 10 December 2017 (UTC)
Sigh. Anyway, it's smart to ask them, albeit no need to be overly concerned with whether they reply. I'm not in the business of assuming that I already know what other people are going to say, but you personally can do or not do whatever you want. --Tryptofish (talk) 16:17, 10 December 2017 (UTC)
Not as editors, but as people who work together on a project, it's nice to ask each other what we think, even if it's just a double-check to confirm what some already believe (others have expressed other opinions). I don't want to get into what I expect, because it's not really important; asking is just a reasonable way to try to stay in sync. isaacl (talk) 17:09, 10 December 2017 (UTC)
If there is no additional input, then I think any arguments along the lines of "X is necessary to avoid Wikipedia being shut down" become specious. The community can take upon itself the task of increasing screening, if it wishes, but there's no collective legal responsibility to do so. (On a side note, because the current Terms of Use only deals with disclosure of paid editing (while of course covering other matters), and this discussion is on promotional editing in general, I'd as soon not compare the two since they have different scopes, though I understand why in some sense you are calling it a stricter policy than the Terms of Use.) isaacl (talk) 17:09, 10 December 2017 (UTC)
The Terms of Use already ban every illegal act. If you want them to amend the Terms of Use feel free, but all illegal conduct is already forbidden. As for "collective legal responsibility", that's a concept that really makes no sense for a whole host of reasons. -- Alanscottwalker (talk) 17:31, 10 December 2017 (UTC)
Sure, I agree with that (on a side note, there's been no discussion of amending the Terms of Use). Some people feel there is a legal obligation for the community to perform certain actions to protect Wikipedia from being shut down, though. If after raising concerns to the WMF on this matter no response is forthcoming, then as I alluded to, this argument becomes irrelevant. isaacl (talk) 17:54, 10 December 2017 (UTC)
I agree with what Isaacl is saying. Since we are parsing words more than I had originally expected, I'd like to clarify what I intended to say. When I used the word "responsibility", what I had in mind is that, so long as we ask WMF legal, then they are never going to say that we failed to contact them, regardless of whether they do or do not offer a legal opinion. I don't think that any editors are legally liable for asking WMF legal; I just think that it makes sense to draw their attention to it and be interested in anything that they might say. I have zero expectation that anyone in the US is going to try to shut us down. In the hypothetical instance that WMF legal offers an opinion that anything spammy might be violating FTC regulations, then that would be a good reason for us to make an en-Wiki policy that bans all paid editing and makes it easier to remove all promotional or COI-ish content. That's hypothetical, and if it's not what happens, then it's up to the community what our policies should be. I think it would be a good idea for us to place more restrictions on paid editing, beyond the minimal requirements for disclosure that are set by the ToU, and that is what I mean by "stricter". --Tryptofish (talk) 18:19, 10 December 2017 (UTC)
Let's back-up, because now you both have at least two different questions for the WMF. Issacl, is the one as far as I can tell, that came up with this question 'What, WMF, is your liability?' Which I think I have indicated is a terrible question -- you won't get any responsible person/corporation to speculate on their liability publicly. Typtofish's question is more amorphous to capture but perhaps is, 'What, WMF, does the FTC require in its rules for me as an editor?' The response to that will likely be 'we cannot give you legal advice.' At any rate, I am pointing out the differences and deficiencies in these questions and was only focused on the liability one, till now. -- Alanscottwalker (talk) 11:42, 11 December 2017 (UTC)
I suggest that we simply ask them to take a look at the discussion here, and to comment on anything that they want to say about how the FTC regulations do or do not apply to paid editing content at en-Wiki. --Tryptofish (talk) 17:01, 11 December 2017 (UTC)
The question that was raised by others (*) is for the WMF to provide comments on how FTC regulations affect the editing process on English Wikipedia. As previously stated, the WMF has historically only commented on what affects itself, so if previous trends hold, if they comment at all, this is what they'd discuss. (*) Personally, I don't feel a strong need to engage the WMF, but since others are interested, I think it may be helpful so we can save some time by avoiding unnecessary speculation. isaacl (talk) 21:14, 11 December 2017 (UTC)
Indeed, we've been spending too much time in unnecessary speculation. So, done: [3]. --Tryptofish (talk) 22:11, 11 December 2017 (UTC)

DPE tag (disclosed paid)Edit

Was there a discussion about creating and applying this {{DPE}}? I see a request at Wikipedia:Requested templates but no discussion there. ☆ Bri (talk) 15:42, 11 December 2017 (UTC)

No. Some discussion was had at [4] and [5], but nothing official.--SamHolt6 (talk) 16:08, 11 December 2017 (UTC)
I see that on December 7, Kerry Raymond recommended it go to Village Pump before being applied to articles. ☆ Bri (talk) 20:26, 11 December 2017 (UTC)
I wouldn't want to use it on an article page, perhaps on a talk page. Smallbones(smalltalk) 06:01, 12 December 2017 (UTC)
According to the position taken by a German judge, a disclosure on the article page is required by European fair trading law, correct? Rentier (talk) 18:44, 12 December 2017 (UTC)
I think that is correct as far as it goes, but it doesn't go far enough. It might be giving the impression that any commercial editing is legal on Wikipedia, as long as you slap that tag on it. I believe that is incorrect. There is a question on whether enWiki needs to deal with German law (and how about Canadian, UK, French, Indian, Australian, California state, New York state, etc.) If it is the case that all these laws have to be followed, I believe that any commercial edit would be against the law, whether it has a tag or not. Even if the only laws that have to be followed are US federal, California state, and the country where the editor is editing from, the likely outcome is that no commercial edits are legal, with or without a tag. US FTC rules likely prohibit 98% of commercial edits (other agencies regulate some areas like drugs and stock issue ads), if we combine them with current core Wikipedia rules.
FTC rules say that the advertising text has to be clearly identified as an ad on the same page near the ad - essentially readers have to know that it is an ad before they read it. "Advertisements" would include almost any communication from the company, even if it is NPOV. So let's see how this would work on Wikipedia. The paid editor or employee puts a box like the above that says "this is an ad" and in many articles, which company is adding it. Of course if they add that notice, somebody will immediately delete the edit per WP:NOADS. The part of the article that is an ad would likely have to be identified - maybe by a box. But then that could not be edited because it is attributed to a specific company. We don't have un-editable text in articles and we would need a method to make sure the text really comes from the specified company, and it would seem to violate WP:Own. It just wouldn't work under our editing rules. There are other ridiculous outcomes that would come from assuming that a tag would make everything legal. The only way to make company edits legal is to keep them off the article page. Tags just don't do it. Smallbones(smalltalk) 04:57, 13 December 2017 (UTC)

COI issues?Edit

I don't know how to solve this "issue," I'm not well versed in WikiPolicy. An article about an organization was edited earlier by a member (anon IP) of it's marketing team (self disclosed on my talk page). I welcomed the person and let them know of the guidelines.

I don't want to put it on the noticeboard because the conversation has been respectful and civil. At the same time, it's obviously an issue, what am I supposed to do? I would rather not drag myself into a discussion on something I just happened to come across. Buffaboy talk 20:34, 11 December 2017 (UTC)

@Buffaboy: Thanks for letting us know. After a 2 minute review of the article, it does look like there's several problems. He must declare on his user page ==> he should get an account. He can't remove the critical info that he did on the last edit. I'd advise him to go to WP:COIN and ask advise there - they probably won't bite his head off. Of course when his boss finds out what he con't do, the boss might bite his head off. Smallbones(smalltalk) 06:11, 12 December 2017 (UTC)
Thanks. When I saw a section was removed about criticism, it was eyebrow raising to me. In addition, someone on the talk page mentioned this kind of behavior a few years ago but it went unanswered. Buffaboy talk 06:22, 12 December 2017 (UTC)
Return to the project page "Conflict of interest".